Friday, 20 May 2016

The Sound of Music, May 19, 2016 ****

Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Book by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse, Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Frost, David Ian & The Really Useful Group
Regent Theatre, until July 31, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 19, 2016
Stars: ****
Review also online at Herald Sun News at 1am Fri May 20, and in print on Fri May 20, 2016. KH 
 Amy Lehpamer with child cast. Photo by Joe Calleri

Rodgers and Hammerstein are unbeatable in the musical theatre stakes and The Sound of Music includes some of their most singable and memorable tunes.

This Australian production is a restaging of Jeremy Sams’ London Palladium version of the original, 1959 stage musical that preceded the spectacularly popular and enduring 1965 movie with Julie Andrews.

Amy Lehpamer is deliciously high-spirited and charmingly effusive as Maria who she refreshingly plays as a gauche, noisy, unworldly and clumsy country girl who galumphs with equal abandon around the Austrian hills, the demure Abbey or the von Trapp mansion.

Lehpamer’s voice has an appealingly bright toned-voice and her renditions of The Sound of Music and I Have Confidence augur well for the rest of the show as she twirls and capers, singing with the relentless cheerfulness that characterises Maria.

Cameron Daddo’s voice lacks power and he is often unconvincing as Captain Georg von Trapp Maria’s employer, the Austrian patriot, and there is no palpable chemistry or sense of impending romance between Maria and the Captain and this leaves their dance duet looking less than intimate.

With her powerful voice, rich, dark, honey tone and exceptional vocal control, opera singer, Jacqueline Dark, almost steals the show as the dignified Mother Abbess singing the rousing and memorable Climb Ev’ry Mountain and her duet of My Favourite Things with Lehpamer and the four nuns’ jaunty, playful version of Maria (How do you solve a problem like...) is an early highlight.
Jacqueline Dark & Amy Lehpamer. Photo by Joe Calleri

The vivacious Lehpamer sings the unforgettable Do-Re-Mi and The Lonely Goatherd with the children who raise the cuteness factor to 100% in the joyful So Long, Farewell.

The children on opening night are played by: Alexander Glenk (Friedrich), Darcy McGrath (Louisa), Beaumont Farrell (Kurt), Karina Thompson (Brigitta), Ruby Moore (Marta) and Heidi Sprague (Gretl).

With her fine musical theatre voice and acting talent, Stefanie Jones invests the adolescent, Liesl, with depth in Sixteen Going On Seventeen, her duet with Rolf who is played by Du Toit Bredenkamp.

In supporting roles are Marina Prior as the stately Baroness Schraeder, David James as the opportunistic, clownish Max Detweiler and Lorraine Bayly as frumpy housekeeper, Frau Schmidt.

The high points of the show are Lehpamer and Dark’s compelling performances, the thrilling nuns’ chorus of Preludium, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s inspiring music and lyrics.

However, Act Two is less dynamic than Act One, with fewer songs and a lot of story to jam into a short time and Daddo’s ballad, Edelweiss, loses its power and sounds flat when it needs to be poignant and patriotic.

Although Robert Jones’ design captures the green, alpine landscape and luxurious von Trapp mansion, its picture frame style seems too small for the enormous stage at the Regent.

For ardent fans of The Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s marvellous tunes should make your hearts sing as they do for Maria and the von Trapps.

By Kate Herbert

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